Former president, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Yunus Ustas Usman (SAN) and seven others have been selected, out of 89 candidates that submitted Expression of Interest Forms, for appointment as justices of the Supreme Court.
The NBA forwarded the names of the nine senior lawyers to the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, as part of its efforts to reform the Nigerian justice sector.
Their nomination is sequel to an approval by Onnoghen days after he was appointed acting CJN by President Muhammadu Buhari, for the NBA to recommend lawyers to be appointed as Supreme Court justices.
The nominees who consist of six Senior Advocates of Nigeria and three active legal practitioners are a constitutional lawyer, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (Anambra, SAN), former Attorney General of Abia State Chief Awa Kalu (Abia, SAN) and Yunus Ustas Usman (Kogi, SAN).
Others are Anthony Ikemefuna Idigbe (Delta, SAN), Babatunde Fagbohunlu (Ondo, SAN) Miannayaaja Essien (Rivers, SAN), Prof. Awalu Hamish Yadudu (Kano), Tajudeen Oladoja (Kwara) and Ayuba Giwa (Edo).
They were all called to the Nigerian Bar between 1978 and 1988.
The approval came on the heels of several allegations of corruptions in the legal sector which materialised into the arrest of two serving Supreme Court Justices and five other senior justices by the Department of State Security in October last year.
This development may have broken the age-long tradition of Supreme Court justices only being elevated from among Senior Justices of the Court of Appeal.
Section 230 of the 1999 Constitution (amended) dictates that the Supreme Court shall consist of the CJN and such number of justices not exceeding 21, as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
In section 231(2), the Constitution says, “The appointment of a person to the office of a Justice of the Supreme Court shall be made by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of such appointment by the Senate”.
According to 231(3), a person shall not be qualified to become a Justice of the apex court unless he is qualified to practise as a legal practitioner in Nigeria and has been so qualified for a period of not less than fifteen years.
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